Many colorful kayaks tied up at shore

Paddling the world one stroke at a time

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Choosing a Kayak

Performance

The simplest way to evaluate the performance aspect of kayak design is to look at the boat's length and width. All things being equal the longer the boat the better it will track (maintain a straight course). Conversely, the shorter the boat, the quicker it will turn. A longer boat will typically be slightly faster than a shorter one.

The width of the boat affects two things. A narrower boat will generally be a quicker boat, but is less stable. A wider boat will be slower, requiring more effort to paddle, but will be far more stable. Stability versus speed is a trade off you will need to balance based on your skill level.

High performance touring sea kayaks are often as narrow as 22 inches wide and as long as 20 feet. The boat that I primarily paddle is a Seaward Quest. It is about 23 inches wide and around 19 feet long. I've had the boat for many years now. When I first started paddling it I thought it was a pretty unstable boat, but now that I am a far more experienced kayaker, the boat feels extremely stable, and as comfortable as an old glove. Try to factor in an increase in skill in your purchasing decision. I'm not advocating buying a boat that you can' keep upright, but you want to make sure the boat will still be fun to paddle as your skills improve.

In addition to performance, the choice of hull design ranges from purely aesthetic to functional. It's hard to argue with the statement, "I love the way that boat looks," but you need to make sure the boat will function in a way that will fit your kayaking needs. If you plan to do multi-day trips, total storage volume is going to be a very important design factor. Evaluate the size of the storage compartment hatches. Smaller hatches are stronger and less likely to fail in serious conditions, but limit the size of the dry bag you can fit into the compartment.

Rudders and skegs are also components of hull design. Both will add weight to a boat, but provide additional stability and control to the boat in adverse conditions.

Post Date: 11/6/2011, Article by: Dave Carpenter

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